This is a classic mongoose question—one of my favourite kind—so-called after the story of a South African farmer who, concerned about an influx of poisonous snakes on his land, tentatively agreed to a Ministry of Agriculture official’s suggestion that he adopt a mongoose (which is very adept at hunting snakes).
This is a wonderful illustration of how, when it comes to language, there is only one hard-and-fast rule: UISS-IWC-MINS (Unless It Sounds Silly–In Which Case, Make It Not So)—or UISS, for short. The rest are all guidelines.
Apart from the context (which is the biggest clue), there is slight, but detectable difference in length:
Fun question. Off the top of my head (I might add to these later):
In the UK:
- gaol (in favour of jail, or prison)
- hiccough (in favour of hiccup)
- society (since )
- hospital (in favour of trust)
In North America:
This is a very topical question, which I happened to touch upon in, as it concerns the importance of rhythm in language .
Trump clearly twigged many years ago that the characteristic meter of English speech is the(an element comprising a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one)—as in the words mother, father, daughter, other, Anglo-Saxon, etc.—and that native English speakers subconsciously prefer it, and short Anglo-Saxon English words, to the meters and long words of other origin. He’s been exploiting this to pitch sales and close deals ever since.
Despite the flattering allusions to the superlative virtues of the Hebrew language—and setting aside the sweeping and unfounded generalisations that Hebrew [people?] are the smartest or have superior emotional intelligence—I doubt that it could be said that Hebrew has the greatest number of adjectives of all languages. This, for three reasons, off the bat:
Oh, boy. Don’t get me started…
Oh, alright, then Continue reading